Each edition of CSCCE’s biannual Early Childhood Workforce Index includes national and state data on early care and education workforce pay, working conditions, and policies. The data-rich publication fills a serious gap in the lack of state and national data on the workforce, making it essential to policymakers, advocates and news outlets.
The 2018 edition of the Index provides a current appraisal of workforce conditions and policies across states. It is divided into four topical chapters:
- About the Workforce provides a national snapshot of characteristics of the early educator workforce across settings and discusses state-level variation.
- Earnings and Economic Security provides national and state data on ECE workforce pay in relation to other occupations and presents new analyses of pay.
- Early Childhood Workforce Policies assesses state policies in five areas: qualifications and educational supports; work environments; compensation and financial relief strategies; workforce data; and financial resources.
- Family and Income Support Policies assesses state policies across occupations in two areas: income supports and health and well-being.
These indicators represent opportunities for state policies that have the potential to enhance the lives of the many children and adults affected by ECE employment conditions. Throughout the Index we spotlight recent research or promising developments that advance new policies or improved conditions.
Download Report PDFs
Educator Work Environments Are Children’s Learning Environments: How and Why They Should Be Improved: Early Educator Preparation Is Important, But Work Environments Matter, Too
Teacher practice that supports children’s learning and development requires well-prepared educators and supportive working conditions.
Supporting a Diverse, Qualified Early Educator Workforce: Aligning Policy with Research and Realities: Minimum Qualification Expectations Are Out of Line With Child Development Research
Despite growing recognition that more rigorous and consistent qualifications are needed for early educators, current requirements across states are low and uneven.
A Workforce Data Deficit Hinders Improved Preparation, Support, and Compensation of Early Childhood Educators
The absence of good data allows anecdote — and sometimes bias — to drive policy decisions.
2018 Early Child Workforce Index Infographics
Infographics based on data from the 2018 Early Childhood Workforce Index are available below for you to download and share.
2018 Early Childhood Workforce Index Demonstrates Urgency of Taking Action to Improve Early Childhood Jobs
Unlivable wages mean ECE workforce turnover is common, putting children’s development at risk, while parents struggle to pay child care costs. In this mostly privatized system, no one wins.
Frequently Asked Questions
Nationwide, the teachers and caregivers who make up the early childhood workforce are struggling to get by on low wages and face insufficient workplace supports. Without transforming policies that shape how we prepare, support, and pay early educators, the 21st-century goal of quality early learning opportunities for all children will remain elusive.
The Index provides state-level appraisals of early childhood workforce conditions and policies based on measurable indicators in order to encourage advocates and policymakers to step up their efforts to address persistent challenges facing the early childhood workforce. Subsequent iterations of the Index in 2018 and beyond will provide the opportunity to identify trends and track progress in the states over time.
The Index will be updated biennially. The next edition of the Index will be released in 2020, with subsequent iterations to follow every two years.
The Index focuses primarily on those who work in teaching and caregiving roles serving children prior to kindergarten, though we also include data on center directors where possible. We also compare the status of early educators to those teaching older children in order to highlight disparities within the birth-to-age-eight spectrum.
A wide variety of terms are used to refer to the early childhood sector and its workforce depending on the age of children served, the location of the service, auspice and funding streams, job roles, and data sources. We use “early childhood workforce” or “early educators” to encompass all those who work directly with young children for pay in group early care and education settings in roles focused on teaching and caregiving.
We use more specific labels, such as “Head Start teacher” or “home care provider” when we are referring to a particular type of setting. In some cases, we are limited by the labels used in a particular data source. For example, we sometimes refer to “childcare workers” or “preschool teachers” when citing data specific to subcategories of the workforce as defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Child care workers and preschool teachers are occupational groupings defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which collects data on all occupations in the United States. This government agency is currently the only source of comparable data on the early childhood workforce across all 50 states.
The BLS defines “childcare workers” as those who “attend to children at schools, businesses, private households, and childcare institutions” and “perform a variety of tasks, such as dressing, feeding bathing, and overseeing play,” while “preschool teachers” are those who “instruct preschool children in activities designed to promote social, physical, and intellectual growth needed for primary school in preschool, day care center, or other child development facility.”
Preschool teachers are a more narrowly defined group of people working in school- or center-based facilities (not homes) with children before kindergarten, usually three- to four-year-olds. Child care workers is more of a catchall term for people who are not classified as preschool teachers but care for and educate children in home- and center-based settings while their parents are working. Child care workers may work with infants and toddlers, three- and four-year-olds, or school-age children. Neither of these categories include the self-employed nor do they include directors or other leadership.
These definitions do not adequately reflect distinctions in settings and roles among early educators, and as a result, there have been calls to revise the classifications. For more information, see: Workgroup on the Early Childhood Workforce and Professional Development (2016). Proposed Revisions to the Definitions for the Early Childhood Workforce in the Standard Occupational Classification: White paper commissioned by the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (OPRE Report 2016-45). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Early educators’ skills, knowledge, and well-being are inseparable from the quality of children’s early learning experiences, yet states are currently failing to provide the combination of appropriate compensation, professional work environments, and training that teachers need to help children succeed.
- Since the first Index was released in 2016, most reform efforts have focused on raising qualifications for early educators. However, limited attention to improving work environments and compensation impedes progress, hampering teacher practice, children’s learning opportunities, and the ability to recruit and retain a skilled ECE workforce.
- Teacher economic insecurity remains common across the profession. This condition has persisted despite widespread recognition of the importance of early care and education in shaping children’s development, promoting the health of families, and building a strong economy.
- Wages have been marked by uneven changes across the workforce. State-by-state data on earnings for the ECE workforce are available for three groups: child care workers, preschool teachers, and center administrators. More than half the states saw a decrease in preschool teacher and center director median wages when adjusted for inflation. Child care workers’ wages, on the other hand, have slightly increased.
- States that raised their minimum wage between 2015 and 2017 were more likely to show wage increases for child care workers than those that had not.
- Teachers with bachelor’s or graduate degrees can face a wage gap as high as $6 an hour, depending on their program’s funding source and sponsorship, compared to a maximum average wage gap of $4 for teachers with an associate degree or no degree.
There is no comprehensive, longitudinal data source for tracking the early childhood workforce in its entirety across the United States nor is there a single source of comprehensive information about early childhood workforce policies across all 50 states. The Index compiles information from a wide variety of sources, including:
- Three major national surveys: the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, the Current Population Survey (CPS), and the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE);
- 50-state databases and reports specific to the early childhood field, such as the NIEER Preschool Yearbook and the Quality Rating and Improvement Systems Compendium;
- 50-state databases and reports on family and income support policies from research and policy organizations, such as the National Women’s Law Center, the Economic Policy Institute, and the National Conference of State Legislatures;
- A cross-state scan of early care and education agency websites; and
- A cross-state survey of state representatives (child care licensing/subsidy administrators, QRIS administrators, registry administrators, etc.).
For information on the data source for each indicator included in the state profiles, see our Guide to Indicators.
The Index outlines a number of concrete steps that policymakers and other stakeholders can take at the state and federal levels to ensure a high-quality, affordable early care and education system, including:
- Ensure that all members of the current workforce have opportunities and supports to acquire education and training.
- Develop workplace standards, such as guidance on appropriate levels of paid planning time, as well as compensation standards which are necessary for educators to engage in professional practice to support children’s development and learning and to alleviate conditions that cause educator stress.
- Ensure that states have a workforce data system that allows for the identification of which policies are working effectively, and for whom, and which are not.
- Estimate the cost of advancing preparation, workplace supports, and compensation of the workforce; articulate the cost gap between existing resources and what is required to accomplish reforms; and articulate phase-in plans to meet reforms, identify costs associated with each phase, and commit to securing dedicated, sustainable funds to realize reforms.
- Develop a campaign to educate policymakers and the public at large about the importance of better pay in ensuring a skilled and stable early educator workforce and the positive, long lasting benefits to children.
The Early Childhood Workforce Index does not formally rank states because even those states making the most progress still have much work to do to improve early childhood jobs.
Rather than rank states from best to worst, we group states into three broad categories based on how well they are doing along a series of measurable indicators for state policies specific to the early childhood field as well as broader policies intended to support working families.
- Red represents stalled: the state has made limited or no progress;
- Yellow represents edging forward: the state has made partial progress;
- Green represents making headway: the state is taking action and advancing promising policies.
See our Interactive Map to compare your state to other states for each policy category.
The Index does not currently provide information on the territories, but may do so in future editions. Stay tuned!
The Index is a state-by-state assessment of early childhood employment conditions and policies. It does not systematically track or report policies and practices at the local level, although notable local efforts to improve the preparation, support, and compensation of the early childhood workforce are highlighted in the Index where possible.
Whitebook, M., McLean, C., Austin, L.J.E., & Edwards, B. (2018). Early Childhood
Workforce Index – 2018. Berkeley, CA: Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved from https://cscce.berkeley.edu/topic/early-childhood-workforce-index/2018/.